Blog > A guide to supporting fertility in the workplace

A guide to supporting fertility in the workplace

Millions of people worldwide face fertility challenges which can take a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll. Supporting fertility in the workplace can help improve outcomes for your employees and empower them to thrive in their careers while navigating their family-building journeys.

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Written by Apricity Team

More than 3.5 million people in the UK go through some form of fertility challenge. This can have a drastic impact on their mental health, with many experiencing depression and anxiety as a result. Even for those that have access to fertility treatment, their well-being is often affected. 50% of people find IVF as or more stressful than the bereavement of a close loved one.

Fertility support in the workplace is an important consideration if you want to help your employees navigate these hardships and demonstrate that you value them as people, not just workers, who you want to see thrive in all aspects of their lives.

In this guide, we discuss fertility support in the workplace by highlighting the challenges employees face, outlining the importance of fertility benefits, and exploring the types of support that you can put in place.

Fertility challenges that employees face

To be able to fully appreciate why there is a need for continuous improvement in the level of fertility support offered to employees in the workplace, it’s important to understand and acknowledge the fertility challenges that they face.

Infertility

Infertility is a health issue that affects both men and women, impacting their ability to conceive naturally. There are many causes of infertility, including endometriosis, fibroids, chronic illnesses, ovulation disorders, poor-quality semen and varicoceles, but there are also instances where infertility is unexplained.

Infertility impacts one in six people in their lifetime and can lead to emotional stress, strain on relationships, and financial hardship.

Fertility anxiety

Even for individuals who have not been diagnosed with infertility, there can be significant anxiety and stress surrounding fertility. Concerns may relate to their ability to conceive, miscarriages, and the pressure of societal expectations. Fertility anxiety appears particularly prevalent amongst Gen Z employees. A recent survey found that 48% of Gen Z were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very worried’ about their fertility.

Age

More and more people are having children later in life. Levels of childlessness by the age of 30 have been steadily rising since 1941, with 50% of women born in 1990 being childless when they reach this age. Many individuals delay starting a family due to career advancement, financial stability, or personal reasons. However, fertility declines with age, making conception more challenging and increasing the likelihood of fertility issues.

Barriers to accessing treatment

For those who need fertility treatment to help them become a parent, many face barriers that prevent them from being able to do so, creating significant fertility inequalities. For example, more than half of NHS England’s Integrated Care Boards don’t include single women in their IVF policies at all. The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has also identified that the quality, accessibility, and outcomes of fertility services for people of colour in the UK demonstrate inequities.

Eligibility criteria

In the UK, the NHS only funds 27% of the IVF cycles that take place. There are strict eligibility criteria which exclude individuals based on factors such as age, marital status, BMI or pre-existing medical conditions. This can further exacerbate feelings of frustration and hopelessness. Some insurance plans or fertility clinics also have stringent eligibility criteria which result in many people not being able to access treatment.

Financial

Fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and egg freezing can be expensive, specifically when looking at private treatment. Findings from Gaia indicate that on average, people pay £13,730 for their IVF treatment. Further, their report reveals that 78% of people go into debt to fund their treatment and 70% experience financial trauma.

Insurance coverage for fertility treatments varies widely, and prices can be drastically different depending on the clinic. This leaves many individuals unable to afford the care they need.

LGBTQ+ exclusion

LGBTQ+ individuals and couples may face additional challenges when accessing fertility treatments, including discrimination, lack of inclusive healthcare policies, and limited options for assisted reproductive technologies. For example, some NHS Integrated Care Boards require female same-sex couples to self-fund 12 rounds of artificial insemination as an access requirement for IVF with donor sperm.

The landscape of fertility support in the workplace

Figures from a CIPD survey indicate that more work is needed with workplace fertility support. Only 27% of employers have a policy in place concerning employee fertility treatment. 56% of these organisations haven’t told their employees about the support they offer. 17% of employees say that they feel quite or very unsupported at work and 46% say they feel neither supported nor unsupported. When asked ‘What support, if any, did you receive from your employer due to your experience of fertility challenges, investigations or treatment?’, 29% of respondents said they didn’t receive any support.

In addition, findings reveal that company culture surrounding supporting fertility falls short. For example, 27% of employees surveyed revealed they didn’t tell their employer about their fertility challenges because there’s too much stigma and 26% were worried about how it would impact their career.

Why is it important to support fertility in the workplace?

Fertility challenges can have a profound impact on individuals in the workplace. A nationwide survey by the national fertility charity Fertility Network UK revealed that nearly 9 out of 10 employees said their productivity at work was strongly impacted by their fertility challenges. It also found that nearly 35% of people took annual leave, sick leave or unpaid leave to cope with the emotional and physical toll of treatment and 16% of those surveyed quit their jobs altogether.

Such insights demonstrate that comprehensive fertility support in the workplace is critical not only for the well-being of individual employees but also for the success of the entire organisation. This notion is further embedded when you take into consideration that 1 in 10 employees would quit their jobs in search of a role with better fertility support and 68% of millennial graduates are willing to change jobs for enhanced employee fertility benefits.

How can employers support fertility in the workplace?

Part of creating an effective fertility support framework in the workplace is recognising that the experiences and challenges of employees will be different. Therefore, policies and fertility benefits should encompass a range of support types that aim to improve employee well-being and allow them to navigate their employment and treatment in a way that best suits them.

Fertility support in the workplace can include:

  • Understanding from management and colleagues

  • Paid time off to attend appointments and undergo treatment

  • Unpaid time off to prioritise physical and emotional wellbeing

  • Adjustments to responsibilities/workload

  • Flexibility of working hours and location

  • Workplace accommodations, such as access to a refrigerator to store medications or a quiet room to administer them

  • Access to a counselling service

  • Signposting to external organisations and resources

  • Financial support toward the cost of fertility treatment

Fertility benefits from Apricity

With Apricity, you can offer your workforce employee fertility benefits that truly make a difference. Our person-centred, virtual approach gives employees timely support from fertility experts when they need it most and makes undergoing fertility treatment as smooth as possible.

Thanks to our at-home care model, on average, patients only need two in-person clinic visits per IVF cycle, compared to the nine or ten visits they’d need with a traditional fertility clinic.

In addition, our transparent all-inclusive pricing system means there are no hidden surprises, ensuring neither you as an employer nor your employees will be faced with additional fees further into their bespoke treatment.

To find out more about how we can help you support your employees with comprehensive fertility care, get in touch with our corporate team.

Written by Apricity Team

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Written by our group of fertility experts and doctors consultants

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